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‘Basketball has saved my life so many times’

Trailblazing women's basketall forward Emily Mandamin shares powerful journey as an Indigenous student-athlete

January 19, 2024 — 

…As shared on


It’s the middle of December, and classes at the University of Manitoba are over for the first semester. Students, including Bisons athletes are winding down their last exams and getting ready for a well-deserved break. On a Tuesday afternoon, Investors Group Athletic Centre, where the Bisons court teams practice and play, is completely quiet.

Except for one person.

Forward Emily Mandamin, a proud member of Iskatewizaagegan 39 Independent First Nation [also known as Shoal Lake #39] is tossing up shots on the far court. She continues to do this for well over an hour on her own. She is in her own world, completely removed from the chaos of life.

In this moment, everything feels right.

For Mandamin – the first-ever person from her home community [a population of roughly 698 people] to earn a college basketball scholarship in the states – the court is home. No matter what’s gone on in her life, the good or the bad, she’s found solace in the sport of basketball.

“Basketball has saved my life so many times. There’s been so many nights where I’ve felt so alone and I’ve been crying and I’ve been upset, and I don’t understand how to deal with what I’m feeling and what I’m going through. I’ll just find myself in the gym, listening to the ball bounce and seeing the ball go through the net,” she says powerfully.

“All of a sudden things start clicking in my brain. I understand why I feel a certain way. Everything makes sense when I have a basketball in my hand. On the court I feel more confident than anywhere else.”

Mandamin has shared her story before. Her journey, from Shoal Lake, to Winnipeg, to the states and back again has been well covered by national media. But she’s proud to tell it again, and again, and again.

It’s not for her own sake. It’s for all her Indigenous brothers and sisters back home and across Canada. She hopes her words will provide hope to the next generation, for those that are like her, those looking for a voice, for a purpose.

…Read more about Emily Manadmin at

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